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Independent! Are We, Really?

Just like every year, once again, the 15th of August known to be the Independence Day of India has arrived. What history it tells when it comes to our independence is one that is not new to any of us. Almost every kid of this nation is aware of the struggle for freedom, the repercussions of it, that our ancestors faced in the last century.

Since we are in the technological era, everyone, in order to show their self-proclaimed patriotism, commented and posted on their respective accounts about the day, and social networking sites were soon flooded with posts yelling “HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY”, but a question that arises in the midst of all this is, are we really independent? If your answer is yes, then I would further like to ask, to what extent are you politically independent in this nation?

Keeping in mind the ongoing circumstances, personally, I didn’t feel like celebrating yesterday, simply because I perceive that even though it’s been 73 long years since we got our independence yet we are all still tamed in some way or the other. I don’t feel independent as a girl because I don’t feel safe enough to roam on the streets of my city alone on a dark night.


73 years on, are we independent?


I don’t feel independent as a Muslim because I might at any time be accused of being a terrorist on the basis of trumped-up, false charges or I may get lynched for storing cow meat in my fridge although, when it would actually be mutton or something else (but not cow meat) at the end but that’s too late then.

I don’t feel independent as a student because I might become a victim of a lathi charge and other police brutalities simply because I dared to speak up against the government of this nation based on my studies and conscientious knowledge gathered by studying in universities of this very realm.

I don’t feel independent as a citizen of this Indian state because basic fundamental rights as prescribed by the Indian Constitution are a joke now. Patriotism is not confined to just posting “HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY” on your social media, rather it is something far beyond that. Apart from our 19th and 20th-century freedom fighters, we have many unarmed, unsung freedom fighters today as well. Almost all of us showed our particular custom patriotism by posting on social media and wishing everyone in general, but how many of us dared to wish “HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY” to the respective families of Akhil Gogoi, Sharjeel Imam, Sharjeel Uthmani, Dr. Kafeel, Dewangna Kalita, Natasha Narwal, Tahir Madini, Asif Tanha, Shifa – Ur – Rehman, Khalid Saifi, and all those who are in judicial custody only because they strived hard and suffered, all to protect the soul of the Indian Constitution?

Did anyone of us dare to wish independence day greetings to Safoora Zargar, a girl who faced the worst character assassination imaginable, just a few months back, or dared to wish the same to her husband who had to endeavor so hard to protect his loving wife and his innocent unborn baby (who was being accused of being illegal) that too amidst facing all that crap regarding questions on his wife’s modesty and purity?

Did anyone of us dare to wish Independence day greetings to families of all those daily wage labourers who lost their lives while returning to their native homelands during the nationwide lockdown? A lockdown that was not executed in a smooth manner, unlike many other independent countries because of the high incompetence of the Indian government.

Did anyone of us dare to ask a Bihar or Assam flood victim about how he and his family celebrated this Independence Day? Or did any of you even think of wishing the same to the families of those soldiers who lost their lives recently at the Ladakh border?
Some of us are not free to speak as our tongues have been chained, someone else is not free to practice his religion freely because he is haunted each day by the consequences he might face.

How many of us including non – Muslims are independent enough to be able to eat eating non – veg whenever, wherever, and in whatever form they wish for? Being a woman in this patriarchal society, how many of us are independent enough to make decisions regarding any aspect on our own?

It’s a true fact that 73 years ago on this very day, we got independence from the Britishers, but it is also an undeniable fact that the most significant and effective policy of the Britishers i.e., “Divide and Rule” is still active in India.

How many of us can dare to utter even the word ”independence” in front of a Kashmiri? Kashmir, where locals have been under the worst lockdown of its kind for years now, in this democratic, 73-year-old “independent” country like India?

Where the hell is independence then?

Just assess for your own self as to how you celebrated this independence day because do you really feel independent in this suffocating atmosphere or are you just moving with the flow?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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